Unit One: Lesson 1


How do Artists Sequence a Story?

Small group followed by whole classroom discussion: This activity asks students to consider how artists sequence a story. Do they represent a single moment as we might be able to see it if we were there or do they present a progression of events through time? If they represent a sequence of actions, do they present them in a logical step by step fashion or do they collage the different events incorporating different times in a single image? Go to lesson

Giving Fertile Ground a Voice

Storytelling and role play: Have each student draw a number representing a character described in the mural key. (Leave out the inanimate objects.)

Have the student imagine that they are that character and create a speech bubble to give that character “voice”. Have each student read their speech bubble out loud to the class as they hold it up to the character on the poster, exploring the connection among oral, written and visual storytelling.

Put the students in four or five different groups based upon where their characters appear in the mural (use the characters for which they wrote speech bubbles).

In each group: Use your bodies to create the positions and gestures of the characters from your section of the mural in a connecting group tableau. In your group share your speech bubble text and create a story for your tableau by deciding on a sequence for your texts. Go to lesson

Unit 1: Lesson 2


Community Roles: Peter Kiewit Mind Map

Small group or individual brainstorming: Reproduce the mind map in lesson 2 for each small group. Have the students brainstorm the roles Peter Kiewit has played in the Omaha community and fill in the mind map. Go to lesson

Community Roles: Individual Research

Individual research, interview, and journal activity: You are now going to research and interview and journal like Meg Saligman did when she was designing the mural Fertile Ground.

Using the research mind map template fill in the roles you would like to play when you are an adult in your community. Use pencil to fill in the circles so that you can make changes later if you like. Use the lowest mind map to brainstorm your future roles. Remember that you can have many different types of roles in your community.

Take the mind map home and interview an adult family member about the different roles that he or she plays in the community. Fill in the center mind map with their answers and fill in their name in the middle. Ask your family to help you identify a family member from the past.

Ask several family members what they remember about the roles this person played. Complete the top mind map with information and memories about his or her roles. Are there any scrapbooks, photo albums, diaries, or artifacts that you could use in your research to learn more about this family member?

Take photographs or find photographs of yourself and your current family member to add to your research.

Reflect on the roles your family has played in the community. For example, are there some roles that have been repeated in your family. What roles do you think are the most important that your family members have played?

Revisit your own mind map and make any changes or additions you would like.

Write a short journal entry on your potential and the roles you could play to contribute to the community. Refer back to your mind map for ideas. Go to lesson

Representing Past, Present, and Future in a Drawing

Individual Art Making Activity: Now you have researched and collected documentation about the roles of three people in your family, past, present, and future. You are going to do what Meg Saligman did and transfer your research into visual imagery.

Like Meg Saligman you are going to represent past, present and future in a drawing. The future will be represented by your self-portrait in the foreground which will be the largest of the figures. The present will be represented in the middle by your current family member who will appear smaller because they are further from you. The past will be represented by your historic family member in the background of your picture. This will be the smallest figure because he or she is the farthest from you. Pick what you think are the most significant one or two roles for each person you will draw. Think about what kind of clothing or objects or gestures will you use to give clues about the person’s roles. Consider using photographs as inspiration for your drawings like Meg Saligman did. Think about whether you want to turn your paper in a portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation. Go to lesson

Unit Two: Lesson 1


Elements of an Environment

Small group observation and whole class data collection activity: In your group make a list of the elements of the setting that you see. Then divide your list into categories.  For example if you saw a rabbit that might be in the category of wildlife whereas if you saw a mountain it might be in the category of landscape features. (Note to teacher: Be sure that students don’t forget things like architecture and statues that make up part of the setting, even though they are not part of the natural environment.)

Report out and see what categories have been discovered. Collect the results of the group work. Go to lesson

Careful Observation

Group observation and Individual drawing activity: Divide the students into groups of 3 to 4. Each group of students will pick an object in the classroom that comes from nature, for example flora or fauna from the natural world, that they can actually observe closely in their group.

Note to teacher: The purpose of this activity is to closely observe a real tangible plant or animal rather than simply a photograph. Teachers can use insects, plants, or leaves that can be brought into the classroom. This would be an excellent opportunity to make a connection to science. Animals that are actually in the classroom, like rabbits, hamsters or turtles can also be used. The teacher can identify a certain number of plants or animals that the students can pick from or can ask students to bring in leaves or plants.

Discuss in your group the details you see in your plant or animal. Make a list of the four or five major features that you see.

Individually make some sketches with pencil recording the features you have discussed. Decide which sketch to use for your finished drawing. On a fresh sheet of paper, begin with a light pencil sketch so that you can make changes before finishing the drawing with fine tip markers, colored pencils or pen and ink.

Whole Group Activity:Have each group display their drawings while the other students view the works identifying the major features that the artists illustrated. Compare the class observations to the group’s list of feature of their plant or animal.

Have each student imagine they are the artist Meg Saligman and decide where in the mural Fertile Ground they would place their drawn object and why. Go to lesson

Imagining Environments

Group discussion and individual creative writing: Find 5 rocks that have different characteristics, smooth and rough, small and large, different colors, etc. Compare and contrast features of the rocks as a group.

Have each individual pick one rock and imagine a place where it could live, real or imagined, for example a turtle pond or outer space. Write a story where your rock has a major role. Be sure to describe the environment in which your story takes place. Go to lesson

Unit 2: Lesson 2


Imagining the Future: Diorama

Group Brainstorming and small group art making:Brainstorm as a whole class about what ways you think Omaha might change, grow, or develop in 25 years?

Each group will create a three-dimensional diorama of their imaginary community in 25 years. Each group will decide which ideas from the whole-class brainstorming activity they want to use and what other ideas they can come up with.

Additional directions: Meg Saligman created the illusion of foreground, middle ground and background on a flat wall surface. You are going to explore actual three-dimensional space by placing your figures into real space.  You will create your diorama in a box with the opening of the box facing forward and the back, bottom, and side walls painted or decorated to represent the sky and/or landscape of your future community. (Teacher Note: Students could use paint, wallpaper, magazine images or construction paper to create a landscape.)

Create symbolic objects and figures for your future community. Objects can be made of any materials that the teacher selects. Some ideas are stand-up figures made of card stock/ cardboard, pipe cleaners, wire, popsicle sticks, clay, etc. Objects can also be made from recycled or found materials such as thread spools, small plastic containers, or other everyday items. Figures and objects can be decorated with a variety of art materials, fabric, patterned paper, etc. Each student will also create a figure to represent their future self to be placed in the diorama. Go to lesson


Imagining the Future: Creative Writing

Individual Writing Activity: Imagine yourself in your future landscape created in your diorama and write a story about what kind of adventure you could have there. How will you interact with the other figures and objects?

Have each group member read their story to their small group. All the stories are set in the same future landscape with the same figures and objects. Go to lesson

Unit Three: Lesson 1


Developing a Mural Theme

Small group and whole class mural development activity: Divide the students into groups of four or five. In your small groups come up with two interests, strengths or concerns of your community that could serve as a topic for a mural that you will design.

Have each of the small groups write their ideas on the board or on large paper that can be posted around the room. Leave space under each idea. Have each group report out briefly about their ideas and why they chose them.

Have each small group choose two of the posted ideas (at least one of which is not their own) for further work in their group.

Your group is going to act as the patron for a mural.  For each of your two selected topics make the following decisions:

What would be a good location for a mural with this topic?

What other community partners might be interested in getting involved with this mural project?
Go to lesson

Unit 3: Lesson 2


Developing Mural Imagery

Group and Individual Imagery Development:You have already picked a topic, brainstormed possible imagery and thought about locations and partners for your mural. (See Unit 3: Lesson 1) Now is the time to do research to determine what actual imagery you will use. Let’s follow Meg Saligman’s steps:

Interview people in your community who can provide special knowledge about your topic and document what they say. (Note to teacher: If this is too difficult for students to do individually consider bringing in a community member to the classroom and having the students plan interview questions.)

Use the library to research your topic and document what you find. (Note to teacher: Have media specialists help with this.)

Collect images that are related to your topic and take photographs in your community that provide current information about your topic. Keep good records of the sources of your images.

Note to teacher: There are many ways to adapt this mural project to the classroom. Consider the age of the students, your time frame, and what available space in your classroom or school building you have to display your mural. Consider what kind of medium your students will use, such as markers, crayon, tempera paint, or oil pastel at the elementary level. Acrylic paints and mediums could form another option at the secondary level. Murals can be made on brown or white kraft paper that comes in 3’ or 4’ wide rolls, colored construction paper that comes in rolls, plywood or masonite panels, or on an actual wall surface. Teachers can be innovative and consider flat surfaces or curved or folded surfaces. Go to lesson for suggested options and activity extensions.

Mural Reflections

Individual Writing Activity: After the students have completed the mural have them individually write a reflective paragraph. What did you learn about your community while you made the mural? What did you learn about the artistic process while you made the mural? Go to lesson

Classroom Artist Statement

Whole Group Writing Activity: When the mural is displayed include a class-composed artist’s statement that explains the ideas and imagery for the viewer. As an optional activity, create a key for the mural (link to poster key for Fertile Ground). Go to lesson